Ayckbourn Talks: Kaleidoscope (1988)

This interview with Alan Ayckbourn was broadcast on BBC Radio's Kaleidoscope on 13 December 1988. Within it, he briefly discusses his play Mr A's Amazing Maze Plays.

Mr A's Amazing Maze Plays is a computer game on wheels really - in one sense. It’s set in a house that the heroine and her dog go into to look for something in the usual sort of Quest. The difference being that they can choose any number of rooms to go through, and there are about 16 different routes they can use in about 25 rooms, most of which they will never visit in one showing.

"The children [audience] join in. They will make suggestions, and I’ve said very specifically to the actors 'for goodness sake, if they make a suggestion, if they add something to it, you’re going to have to take it on board'; you can’t just walk away from that sort of audience or they’ll just scream louder.

"And we also make it quite difficult for them, because as the route through the house goes on, we ask the audience to remember how to get back, which is virtually impossible; no adult can do it, and quite interestingly, the kids can.

"I’ve tried to give them a sort of multi-coloured experience. There are moments of sadness. There are moments of tension. We frighten them a little and we also, I hope, make them laugh. And we’re asking children of five to nine to sit there for 45 minutes. It’s often a foreign experience for the children and they’re quite surprised - as this play does - when it invites them to make decisions and choices which actually affect the action genuinely.

"What I’m really doing, I suppose, is carrying on the crusade I do with my adult plays, to stress the liveliness and the excitement and the spontaneity of live theatre, as opposed to the other arts.”

“Our children’s theatre is a bit of a disgrace in this country and a lot of us are to blame because we don’t put the resources in. I don’t know, maybe it was sort of the Spirit of Christmas to Come or something, but I tried this year - I made a vow that I would try and do a children’s show with the biggest production values we could give it; we wouldn’t hive it off at half the budget, and you know, whatever actors were around; we’d give it the best actors, the best production values.

"I did my best to write as good a play as I could for them, and will try in future to do that. It’s really one of the toughest disciplines to write, particularly for young children, because they seem to demand all the things that adults demand, but multiplied by about 20. They are ruthlessly critical about longueurs in plays and I think every dramatist (it usually is a dramatist) has to match himself against them at least once every decade.”

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